Greetings from Denver, Colorado! I unfortunately had to return home from my study abroad experience earlier than expected. However, I still have many insights regarding Ecuadorian environmental attitudes that I am eager to share.
Throughout my time in San Cristóbal, Galápagos, I was struck by the abundance of signs, murals, and benches that implored me to help conserve the island. I believe these visual reminders reflect how aware Galapagueños are of conservation efforts. They recognize that they live in a unique ecosystem, and feel responsible for its preservation. In conversations I had with locals about conservation, many used the phrase “cuidar lo nuestro” (“take care of what’s ours”), echoing the narrative that has been promoted and instilled by the government, national park, and conservation NGOs over the last few decades. Although conservation efforts may impede local practices and livelihoods, I was amazed to find that almost everyone supports conservation as a concept. This may be partly attributable to the island’s economic reliance on tourism, which depends on the maintenance of a “pristine” Galápagos.
Despite a strong local conservation ethic, many conservation challenges remain in the Galápagos. In particular, plastic pollution is a growing threat to the islands. While much of the plastic that litters beaches was transported long distances by ocean currents, plastic waste is also generated on the islands, by tourists and locals alike. Though there are some efforts in place to reduce single-use plastics, such as bans on plastic straws, items like plastic water bottles and plastic bags are still commonplace. I want to qualify this, however, by noting that San Cristóbal is one of the cleanest places I have ever been, with minimal litter compared to mainland Ecuador and the United States (this is, of course, a small community). Through this series of photos, I wish to explore some of the paradoxes of conservation present on the Galápagos Islands.